When the full text of the Austria's ultimatum to Serbia was published, public opinion was incensed at the severity of the demand. A feverish week of diplomatic effort followed among the nations of Europe. Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Minister, and Czar Nicholas of Russia worked ceaselessly in their efforts to prevent a declaration of war, for it had been foreseen that all Europe would be brought into the conflict because of preexisting alliances.
It was proposed to hold a conference in London to mediate the dispute between Austria and Serbia. France and Italy quickly agreed, but the Teutons declined because their hearts had been set on war and their preparations completed down to the last detail. Indeed, it is known that the day after the crime, Austria issued secret mobilization papers to her subjects abroad. Kaiser Wilhelm had returned from his cruise and Britain went mad with war fever.
Austria sought to pacify or mislead Russia, July 24, by pledging herself not to annex Serbian territory in event of war. Russia asked that an extension of time be granted Serbia in which to reply to the ultimatum, but was answered in the negative. The next day Russia published her warning that she would render assistance to Serbia if the Slav race were attacked. Sir Edward Grey proposed a conference of neutral ambassadors to compose the differences of Serbia and Austria, but this solution was rejected by Germany, who on the same day urged France and Great Britain to persuade Russia to remain neutral, a cold-blooded proposal which England and France rejected. Next the Kaiser pleaded with Russia to allow Serbia to be destroyed by Austria. In reply the Czar suggested referring the whole matter to the Hague Tribunal. To this suggestion Emperor William made no reply.
July 28, Austria declared war on Serbia and marched her army toward Belgrade. The next day Emperor William made a shameless bid for British neutrality, pledging Germany to take no territory from France ...